Earthquake resistant housing Ica Peru

11417 On 15th August 2007, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck the central coast of Peru, with its epicentre in the Ica region of Peru. This region borders the Pacific ocean, to the south of Lima. The epicentre was close (60km to the northwest) to the city of Pisco. The quake affected seven provinces in the region, with Chincha province suffering the most damage. 91,000 houses were destroyed. Many of those were houses built of adobe, belonging to poor urban or rural families.

Practical Action worked to help poor families ‘build back better’ over nearly 2 ½ years from November 2007 until February 2010. We focused on the rural districts of Sunampe and El Carmen (both in Chincha Province). The selection of these areas was co-ordinated with the local authorities to avoid duplicating efforts of other agencies. Our work involved:

  • rebuilding housing in two phases: initially transitional shelters, and later, permanent housing modules.
  • Rehabilitating irrigation and water sources for agriculture.

Reconstruction work was carefully planned to fit around the agricultural calendar, with most activity after the main harvest. This meant labour was available, and enabled some families to invest income from agriculture into their houses.

The project built on traditional housing knowledge of quincha construction techniques. These had not been used in many of the adobe houses that collapsed during the quake. 

  • Transitional shelters. 900 very low-cost housing modules were built using quincha, cement and reused materials from damaged housing, and should last for up to 5 years. They included improved water and sanitation services. These replaced tents or other precarious shelters that people moved into in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Quincha is a technique consisting of a wooden frame filled in with cane and mud. If built and maintained properly, it can resist natural hazards such as earthquakes.
  • Permanent housing modules. 300 houses were built using improved quincha . These have concrete foundations and columns, and beams of sawn timber. It is a technology we used successfully in the Alto Mayo region of Peru. The houses were 36m2, and were designed to be easily added to. 

Local artisans and the house owners themselves were trained, giving them the skills to expand their houses in future. 25 of those trained were employed as master builders or labourers in improved quincha houses for other organisations. 

Through our work, 1,200 families rebuilt their homes: 900 with transitional shelters and 300 with permanent housing modules. 

Many of those we worked with were excluded from official government support because they did not have property titles, or were tenants. Most had migrated to these districts over a decade ago. Most of the aid to the region benefitted the urban centres, with little reaching out to these rural districts. 

  • 70% of those benefitting from our work were women, mostly single or abandoned mothers. They got organised, learned to build, and were able to acquire housing for their families. Some women are now community leaders.
  • Many of those who were trained in particular building techniques were youth. 
  • We made sure that elderly and disabled people did not lose out just because they could not participate as actively as others in actually building their own homes.  


The project has had impacts beyond its work on housing and agricultural infrastructure. 

  • 4 other organisations built 257 houses using improved quincha technology, using our advice. They were the Spanish Red Cross, ASPEM of Italy, GTZ-Paz y Esperanza and CARE Peru, all of which have the potential to use this technology even more widely in future programmes.
  • Participatory plans for risk management, reconstruction and development of the districts of Sunampe and El Carmen were approved by the municipal councils, and included in municipal budgets.
  • A new national law and set of rules for Safe and Healthy Rural Housing was proclaimed which specifically permits construction using improved quincha. This law applies nationally, but pays special attention to the region affected by the 2007 earthquake.
Imagine living with the constant danger that you could lose your home at any time. With your help more people can benefit from improved quincha technology. Please donate what you can, or share this page with your friends via Facebook and Twitter.

Earthquake resistant housing

This brief shows simple methods to make houses safer during earthquakes.


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